Friday, June 20, 2014

Almost like a Brooks? Part 3: Long-term Review of the Velo Orange Model 1 Saddle

A leather saddle—at least in theory—should last a long time, and therefore I wanted to provide an follow-up to the two previous review posts about the Velo Orange Model 1 saddle. I've now ridden the saddle for about 2.5 years and 11 000 km. It has seen all kinds of use, from all-year everyday riding around town, multi-day loaded tours, and single-day rides of up to 200km. So has my previous, positive assessment changed since the July 2012 review?

By and large: no. The main points still hold true.

In summer of 2012 the saddle was already well broken in, but it has continued to slightly change its shape. The picture on the left shows the saddle in 2012, the one on the right in its current state.

2012: Broken-in
2014: Moar broken-in

The asymmetry and “hammockiness” definitely have gotten more pronounced (even though the camera angle does distort things a bit). I haven't touched the tension screw yet and so far have no plans of doing so. The leather is still far away from the rails, the saddle is comfortable, and I'm an adherent of the school of thought that believes once you start turning the tension screw, you'll have to keep going until the saddle is dead.

The saddle rails are still going strong and I have no reason to expect them to fail any time soon. But obviously one never knows ...
The leather has aged very nicely. I try to be conscientious about covering the saddle in the rain but must admit that it has gotten wet more than once. And, ahem, I also sweat a lot in the parts that touch the saddle. After the initial treatment with Proofide I haven't done much to care for the leather, and this doesn't seem to have had any bad effects.

There are a few spots, especially near the rivets and in the place where the saddle sometimes scrapes against the wall or other objects, where the leather looks worn and I'll apply some Proofide soon. Other than that the saddle actually looks better than when it was new. The surface texture and crinkliness I pointed out in earlier reviews has turned into a mostly smooth surface, as you can see in the pictures.

2014: Pretty shiny
2012: Still a little dull

It is still not quite as shiny as my Brooks Swift and B17 Imperial, but the looks are definitely closer now than they were initially. The hammered rivets, made from stainless steel, haven't changed their appearance at all and are still flush with the leather. A minor advantage over my B17 Imperial is that the saddle is completely quiet, whereas the Brooks had phases of squeaking and clicking.

What about the arguably most important characteristic of a saddle, comfort? Once again, there are no essential changes to report. The saddle continues to be comfortable, as evidenced by my ability to do 200km day rides or multi-day tours in relative comfort. As I've remarked previously, when riding without padded bike shorts it does make a difference which underwear I'm wearing. As long as the seams are in the right spot I can do up to 60km without issues; anything above that is better done in bike shorts. The center ridge may have gotten slightly more pronounced but still doesn't bother me at all.

So to conclude, I do not regret buying the VO instead of a Brooks at all. I don't have anything negative to say about the saddle. If aesthetics are very high on your priority list, then maybe you should go for a Brooks instead. And if the center ridge negatively affects your comfort, you might want to consider going for a non-hammock saddle. Other than that you can't go wrong with the VO Model 1. Oh, there is the little problem that Velo Orange currently doesn't sell the saddle;but they have said that they “may bring it back eventually” and maybe this review will help with that.

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